I’ve spent years of my life trying to figure out the secret to the perfect hamburger mix. As it turns out, my efforts were somewhat foolish considering how simple it is to make a great burger. In fact, the simpler, the better. I tried almost everything to perfect a ground meat mixture for my burgers. On separate occasions, I tried using breadcrumbs as a softening filler, milk mixed with sliced bread to maintain moisture, eggs as a binder, bacon to increase the fat content, and even stuffing the burgers with various ingredients. The results were always the same even if the burgers tasted good, they still weren’t perfect.
As it turns out, if you want a burger that tastes like meat, you can’t stuff the burger with a bunch of fillers. Most of the time, the fillers give you something resembling a meatloaf or meatball instead of true burger. This recipe creates tender, all beef burgers that are painfully simple, but that will give you one of the best burgers you’ve ever grilled at home.
Makes 4, quarter-pound, hamburger patties at 274 – 284 calories each (85/15 vs 80/20 ground beef).
+ cheese = 80 calories
+ hamburger bun = 80 – 120 calories
+ secret sauce = 11 – 25 calories per tablespoon
How to Make the Perfect Grilled Burger
A thin, tender, perfectly grilled burger with secret sauce.
- 1 pound of 85/15 ground beef or 80/20 coarse ground chuck (240 to 280 calories per 4 oz. respectively)
Note: Restaurants use coarse ground chuck, which is 80/20 lean and fat. It is delicious because it has a higher fat content, but sometimes it’s not available at the grocery store. The small amount of oil in this recipe adds some fat to the 85/15 meat, but with slightly less overall calories than 80/20 meat. If you use, 80/20 ground chuck, then skip the added oil. If you decide to go for a leaner burger, such as a 90/10 ground beef, then you will most definitely need the added oil.
- 1 tablespoon canola/vegetable oil only if using ground beef leaner than 80/20 (120 calories)
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- Hamburger Buns (about 80 – 150 calories)
- Optional: 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire Sauce for a little more umami flavor if the meat isn’t the greatest quality (about 15 calories) Note: If you don’t have Worcestershire, don’t even worry about it. Good meat will taste great with just salt and pepper.
- Optional: If you want something a little more exotic, then add the following spices for what I call Kofta Burgers:
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- Optional: sliced cheese of your choice like American, Cheddar, Muenster, Monterrey Jack, or Swiss (about 80 calories)
- Optional: vegetable toppings like lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles, etc.
Secret Sauce Ingredients(makes about 15 teaspoons of sauce at 11 – 25 calories per serving)
- 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) mayonnaise (Light Mayo = 140 calories, Regular Mayo = 360 calories)
- 1 tablespoon ketchup (about 20 calories)
- 1 teaspoon sweet pickle relish (about 7 calories)
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- A grill
- Recommended: Charcoal grill.
- Gas is fine too (like what I used here), but you simply cannot beat the flavor of charcoal.
- Large mixing bowl
- Tablespoon and teaspoon measurements
- Optional: Wax or parchment paper
- Grill Spatula
- Baking sheet or large tray
- On a baking sheet or tray, lay down a piece of parchment paper.
- Place the ground beef in the mixing bowl. Use your fingers to lightly break up the meat into chunks by simply rotating your wrist with your fingers in the meat to create a churning motion.
- Add Worcestershire, oil, salt, and pepper to the ground meat and mix thoroughly. It’s ok at this point to get a more uniform blob of meat.
- Form the ground beef into four balls and place them equally spaced on the parchment paper. Each of these is approximately 1/4 of a pound. If you prefer half pound burgers, then form only two balls.
- Lay down another piece of parchment paper over the hamburger patties. Use your hands to press down on the parchment paper starting from the center of each ball and work the pressure outward in a circle. You don’t want to over-flatten the meat, but use your discretion for how thick or thin you like your burgers. Just remember that burgers always shrink, so make them a little larger than the hamburger buns.
- The most important thing to remember is to create a shallow dimple in the center of just one side of the burger patties. This dimple in the center keeps the meat from contracting too much in the center, so you get a flat burger instead of a chunky ball.
- The burgers are ready for the grill immediately, but I recommend letting the meat sit in the fridge for about an hour (no more than 2 hours) to really let the seasonings absorb. While you wait, you can get the grill ready, prep your vegetables, or mix a secret sauce.
- For ease of grilling later, cut the parchment paper into quarters along the space between the burgers so that the individual patties are separated. You can also freeze them for later in a well insulated freezer bag. Then when you are ready to eat them, you can slowly defrost them in the fridge before you grill them.
- As the burgers chill in the fridge, get your grill really hot. You shouldn’t be able to hold your hand over the grill for more than a few seconds.
- When the grill is ready remove the top layer of the parchment paper from the burger patties. Pick up a burger with the uncovered side up and the remaining parchment side down on your hand. Slap a single burger down on the hot grill with the back side of the parchment paper still on. When the burger is on the grill, carefully peel the remaining piece of parchment paper off the burger patty while being careful not to break the patty apart.
- Do not touch the burgers while they grill and do not close the lid. Let the burgers grill for 4 full minutes on one side before you flip them.
- After 4 minutes, flip the burgers and let them again sit undisturbed for 3 minutes if you like a medium burger or 4 minutes if you prefer a medium-well burger. If you made 1/2 pound burgers, then grill for 5 to 6 minutes on the first side and 4 minutes on the other side.
Note: If after 4 minutes, you try to move the burger and it sticks to the grill, wait another 30 seconds or so. Your grill may not have been hot enough to sear the meat. [/recipe notes]
- If you want cheese, add the cheese after the first flip and after two minutes have passed to let it melt for another minute or two. Use this time to grill your hamburger buns as well.
- The burgers are ready immediately, so serve them with your favorite toppings.